"Boyhood": An eerily realist journey down the road to manhood

Not to be confused with "Boyz N The Hood"

By Jared Lovrak on August 6, 2014

Richard Linklater spent 12 years making this week's movie. He filmed a small piece of the film each year to allow the cast to age naturally onscreen. He isn't the first director to do something like this. In 1994, Danish director Lars von Trier started filming Dimension, shooting a three-minute long segment of film every year, with a planned release sometime in 2024. He got bored with the project after eight years. Canadian director Richard Williams infamously worked on his animated opus The Thief and the Cobbler for more than 30 years before investors took it away from him and hurriedly completed it just in time to compete with a little-known indie film called Aladdin. So no, Richard Linklater isn't the first director to do something like this.

He's just the first person to do it right.

In Boyhood, Linklater chronicles - appropriately enough - someone's boyhood. That boy is Mason (Ellar Coltrane), a typical 6-year-old boy navigating life with all the grace you'd expect from someone who's only just starting to realize there aren't monsters under his bed. He hates doing his homework. He has a love-hate relationship with his big sister, Samantha (Linklater's daughter, Lorelei Linklater). His parents (Patricia Arquette and Linklater favorite Ethan Hawke) are separated, but that's hardly a unique situation these days, and kids are supposed to be naturally resilient, aren't they?

I guess we'll find out.

The thing about boyhood is that it inevitably gives way to manhood, and we get to watch Mason's less-than-idyllic formative years unfold onscreen. He's close with his dad, but their relationship is strained to some extent due to the distance between them. (Anyone who's been in a similar situation can attest, not living under the same roof is always too much distance.) His parents start dating and marrying other people. (Again, anyone who's been in a similar situation knows this is just delightful.) Mason's stepmother and her family seem nice enough. His mother unfortunately draws a series of men from After-School Special Evil Spouse & Stepparent Central Casting. Their severe alcohol problems and abusive, draconian parenting/marriage/people skills don't become noticeable until after rings and vows are exchanged. Mason even falls in love a few times himself and - like his mom - not always with the right person.

Through it all, Mason grows older.

Documentarians notwithstanding, most filmmakers do what they do to provide their audiences with some escapism from the real world. Even biopics usually aren't immune to a bit of artistic liberty for the sake of entertainment. Apparently, Richard Linklater doesn't subscribe to that philosophy, instead painstakingly fabricating totally authentic portrayals of real-life and committing them to film. The amazing thing about Linklater is that's enough. In fact, it's more than enough. Boyhood is one of those films that remind you real life can be every bit as cinematic as the silver screen.

BOYHOOD, opens Friday, Aug. 8, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $5-$9.50, 253.593.4474